Festival time at Scala
Gabby Young And Other Animals - Live At Scala, London

It’s festival time at Scala. There are Chinese lanterns, a drum kit decorated in flowers and foliage, and a line-up of acts to look forward to. There’s even bunting.

It’s all for the launch of the latest album from the theatrical circus gypsy cabaret extravaganza that is Gabby Young and Other Animals, entitled ‘The Band Called Out for More’. And they’ve brought friends.

The big-haired Fiona Bevan is among the more memorable of the warm-up acts: fun, whimsical and endearing. She’s very much at home on this stage, alone but for her guitar.

An acoustic performance by Revere follows. In just a few tracks, they’re able to construct some dramatic moments – sensual and visceral. Frontman Stephen Ellis (also a crucial component of the Other Animals) delivers a highlight with shanty song ‘What Am I If I’m Not Even Dust’.

With the audience suitably warmed up, Gabby Young takes the stage, colourful and barefoot – much like you’d want to be if you were in a field somewhere. She’s accompanied by an assortment of musicians, a fair few in addition to the regular line up of Other Animals.

The plan is to play the new album in its entirety tonight, and so the band launch directly into opener ‘In Your Head’, a runaway, high energy romp that sets the tone. It’s followed by ‘Goldfish Bowl’, during which Scala is improbably transformed into something not unlike an ecstatic gospel church.

The headcount on stage fluctuates throughout the night, with Young sometimes picking up a guitar for some alone time with the crowd – at least for some of a track. One such moment is the opening of ‘Male Version of Me’. The band eventually join in, Ellis leading the charge on melodica.

There’s less emphasis tonight on theatrics and costume changes than usual, leaving more of a focus on the music itself. There’s a subtle but broader range of tone and emotion on this new album too, and this communicates well. There are the joyous, chaotic moments within the music (and the occasional moment of disarray between tracks too), as well as moving, poignant sections of the set. But with this new collection of tracks comes even more variation and interest.

‘Horatio’ may be on the new album, but it’s an old favourite from the band’s live show, as an enthusiastic crowd attests to. A few tracks later, ‘Segment’ proves to be yet another highlight. It’s a high-energy track, but there’s complexity here that makes it about more than just unmitigated joy.

Young closes the set where the album ends, with title track ‘The Band Called Out For More’. And then it’s back to familiar territory with a generous encore of more established tracks – so more dancing, and more sing-alongs. ‘We’re All In This Together’ is unfailingly powerful and moving, and it doesn’t disappoint tonight. ‘Ask You A Question’ and ‘Ones That Got Away’ are next, for those in the audience that haven’t quite stretched their legs enough by this point. The band’s enjoying it just as much, tubas and plastic trombones in the air.

By the time everyone, the crowd included, are singing the chorus to ‘Whose House’, there’s little doubt of the answer to that question. The performance might not have been polished and perfect, but that’s not the point. Everyone’s having too much fun, on and off the stage, to care.

Words by Clinton Cawood
Photo by Richard Gray

Click here for a photo gallery of the gig.

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